By Lacy Hilliard
Nearly every resident in the United States has been touched by cancer in some form. Those that have been diagnosed with cancer know that hearing the phrase, The biopsy showed positive results, can be a terrifying experience. Fear and uncertainty are generally the emotions that accompany a cancer diagnosis. Mother and daughter Linda Miller and Kristy Maze are no strangers to this life-altering scenario.
Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States and the number of diagnosed cases is growing at a rapid rate. While breast cancer may be a common occurrence; the stories of Johnson County residents, Linda Miller and Kristy Maze is anything but ordinary. In August of 2006, just two weeks before her daughter, Ashleigh, would begin college, Kristy was diagnosed with Stage II Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma, the most common form of breast cancer. Tears fell as Kristys mother, Linda, recounted the moment she found out her daughter had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she was distraught as any mother would be, she said, I know Kristy is strong and I knew that she would make it though. The diagnosis even came as a shock to Kristys doctor who had originally told her the lump on her breast was most likely nothing to worry about. Kristys diagnosis at age 36 was hard to swallow but nothing could have prepared Kristy, Linda, or the rest of their family for what would come next.
Just one month after Kristy was diagnosed with cancer, Linda would receive the exact same diagnosis. Though genetic links are apparent when it comes to whom cancer will affect; a mother and daughter being diagnosed with the exact same type of cancer in the exact same stage within only a month of each other is virtually unheard of. The diagnosis was an obvious shock but Linda and her family took it in stride. Linda recalls looking at her daughter, shrugging her shoulders, and saying Lets just do it together. Well make it.
Linda is a proud employee of Mountain City Care Center and Kristy is also employed locally by Amedisys Home Health. Because both Linda and Kristy work in healthcare they were diligent about protecting their health. Kristy was too young at the time of her diagnosis for annual mammograms, however, she did keep up with yearly physicals and preventative exams – a habit that likely saved her life. Linda, however, was of the age for yearly mammograms. When she found the lump on her breast, she immediately scheduled an appointment. After five mammograms and two ultrasounds in one day, the cancer was finally located.
Both Linda and Kristy were faced with draining chemotherapy regimens and a plethora of doctors appointments. Additionally, Linda had to undergo radiation. One of the most inspiring facts about the pair is that they kept working through all of their treatments. In fact, the only time either of them missed work was when they were scheduled for surgery. The women said that working through the treatments helped provide them with a sense of normalcy during this uncertain time. They are also both fortunate to have extremely supportive coworkers. When Kristy lost her hair during her chemotherapy treatments, her coworkers told her she was beautiful and her patients (some of them fighting their own battles against cancer) found her inspiring. In fact, Kristy maintained such an upbeat and positive manner throughout her treatments that her patients were completely unaware of her battle until she lost her hair. One coworker asked Kristy how she managed to be so happy while undergoing all of the invasive treatments she was receiving. To this Kristy replied, What am I supposed to do? Sit and cry all day? That just isnt me. Kristy and Linda couldnt say enough about the support of their coworkers but perhaps none stands out more than, Robin Greene. Because Kristy was fighting her own battle and was unable to drive her mother to appointments or care for her after surgeries, Robin stepped up without question. Robin was with Linda throughout the entire process; she was even by her side when Linda received her diagnosis. Robin could often be found sleeping by Lindas bedside or shuttling her back and forth to various appointments and for that, Linda and Kristy are eternally grateful.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.
By Lacy Hilliard